2.9 ~ Death and Dreams
~ (Continued) Trisday, 8th of Aprilis, 11831 ~
The duc’s rooms were not his as of yet. Aimé and his wife Hélaïse would still be officially governing for the next year or so and their belongings were in that suite. Pierre was here on temporary adjustment after much time away for school, here for the summer with perhaps a return to the castle come autumn, and then a return in the winter. He would discuss the exact dates with Aimé at a later point.
Pierre was not certain what duties he would have right now, if any, but given the briefing he had had with Vivien, this would not merely be a vacation. That did not bother him—with having the power to do things it would be a pleasure. It was while he had been away and immersed in learning many other things that this part of his life had become less of a priority.
For now, he stood in the guest rooms that had been given to him for his stay this summer. They were elegant, often reserved for visiting nobles, which in a way he was. It reminded him in size of his quarters at the palace. He was on the second story, and so the room included a large set of glass doors that opened up onto a balcony, yet there were shades that could go over them and give privacy. The closet was far larger than he was used to, university meaning a small space for several people, so there would be a lot of empty space for now. Perhaps he would make this more of a study in the future. He could put his journals in there as well.
A knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Shoes tapped with nerves against the stone when he did not reply right away.
Wolfram entered. He shut the door, hesitated, and then turned the key that was still in the lock. “Your Grace, if I may, please, see Salome…” He looked for the trunk and upon seeing it at the foot of the bed would not turn his gaze away.
Pierre gestured that the young man could go over to it. He dug into his pocket for the chest’s key and handed it over to Wolfram.
With relief the boy rushed over and opened the trunk. The silk at the top was set aside, and in the remaining fabric and cushions a young woman lay curled up in a thin nightdress.
“Is she…” He did not reach out though wanted to dearly.
“Exactly as she was when we left,” the lord of death said softly. He placed a hand on Wolfram’s shoulder. The girl’s soul was tentatively linked to him, he had renewed the connection of magic by giving her blood every few days in secret during their trip, and as long as he kept that up she would be fine.
“I promised you, Wolfram.”
“Thank you.” Wolfram finally reached out to her and stroked her far too pale cheek. Pierre stood and walked back over to the window to give them some privacy.
The Mists of Death were named Akhlys. It was Mora’s land, a plane of the dead, and a place where all the dead in Noctuina began their afterlives. Other spirits of the dead were said to reside there as well, but he had only met and known Mora. When one died they were surrounded by the fog as their lives and actions were judged. The mists then cleared and one either found themselves in a dream or a hell until they were reborn again in this world. There were other possible scenarios, some stayed tied to Noctuina and found themselves in their physical places of death, or could temporarily cross over into the realms of the living, but those were special cases that often involved ritual or passion. Mora’s suitors, and her lords, could pull back a spirit from the mists, but once they were beyond that it was impossible. Pierre had returned to life those who had died even years ago, so the time spent in the mists could be long, but it differed for everyone.
Wolfram stroked Salome’s hair, and then after glancing at Pierre, bent down to kiss her. He replaced the silk to hide her and shut the trunk, locking it with the key before putting it in his own pocket.
He stood and straightened his attire. “My lord, if I may help you dress, or aid with whatever you need?” It took Pierre a moment to realize the title lord was being used to mean lord of death, not as someone refusing his claim to Piques. Aloud no other save Mora has address him as such. He would have to make sure that Wolfram did not slip up and say the wrong word in the company of others.
“Have you actually taken up the duties of valet as well as doctor’s apprentice and suitor of death?”
“You have done much for me,” Wolfram replied. “I need to pay my dues.”
“That will be acceptable. Help me choose something for tonight’s dinner then.”
They continued to discuss necrocræft as they looked through the trunks and Pierre tried on clothes he was sure he had not owned before. Someone from the castle must have commissioned sets for him, he remembered a head maid insisting on getting some new measurements now that he had returned from University. It was not unpleasant that new things sometimes appeared in his possession, but he did not often have any choices in the matter.
“Your Grace, may you tell me of Familiars? Your familiar is what you first return from the dead, and it is a special case, yes?”
“Oui. An animal is chosen based on personal preference, usually, and you must kill it. It is not pleasant in the slightest, and the only redeeming factor in what I had done to Pluta was that I knew she would come back. The animal enters Akhlys just as a person would, then gains knowledge and magia. The practitioner then returns them to life. They are essentially immortal, new daimons in a way, reborn of Akhlys. Most choose to die when their masters finally do, though.”
“Must it be an animal?” Wolfram asked.
Pierre turned to look at him at the question. “I have heard of a case where the familiar was human,” he said slowly. “What are you thinking?”
“That I can bring Salome back now. I do not have a Familiar yet, but I have some knowledge. If the first resurrection is guaranteed then it will not take me months or years to have her back!”
The lord nodded. “This is true. But you did not kill her, I did. Your familiar must be your kill. That I have not heard otherwise.”
“Is this magic not about straining against the conventions of what a human should be able to do? I wish to at least try.” Pierre raised an eyebrow, but nodded. He himself had performed acts of the cræft that had taken others longer than he to do, or were thought beyond the scope of the magic.
“I cannot guarantee she will become a familiar, or that she will return to life. But I do not think it will harm any future chances of bringing her back. I will help. Give me some time though, I wish to asses your skill and make sure you have enough knowledge. I would also like to know what her illness was so it is cured upon her return so this shan’t be all for naught.”
“Thank you.” Wolfram’s face lit up in the first true smile Pierre had ever seen on him.
Dinner was quiet, Elizabeth and Pierre being joined only by Vivien and his family, with the other advisors either not at the home or wishing to meet tomorrow. Lady Maiolaine Yvette, Vivien’s wife, was introduced: the eldest child of Comte Hadrien de Bladeren. They had three children, Bastien Dion, Apolla Sidonie, and Eliana Narcisse, who “took after my mother,” as Lady Maiolaine said, her and her husband’s hair dark, but the comtesse Cloé’s locks famously white-gold.
The discussions were light—about their journey, the food, and similar things.
At dessert Apolla asked where their grandmother was. Vivien explained that his mother lived here as well, but was feeling unwell that evening and could not attend.
“She has a headache and sends her apologies. I am sure she will wish to meet you soon.”
“Tibault sends his apologies as well,” Maiolaine added to Pierre. “Brother will meet you tomorrow. He is quite new to Spadille himself and does not wish to impose. Our cousin, Perdita, lives here as well, as a lady-in-waiting to Lady Cordelia, Lord Jourdain’s wife.”
“Of course, it will be a pleasure to become acquainted with everyone.”
Elizabeth dreamt. She walked the halls of the château, trying to find her room, and being unable to make sense of any of the corridors. Finally, a large set of doors stood before her. Something called to her to enter and before she could wonder why she had that feeling she was going into a large library.
Even standing on her toes she barely reached the half-way point of the bookcases. They were filled with a multitude of tomes and scrolls and maps. A few lamps were already lit in the room and long shadows were cast upon the long walls. She began to walk and read, head tilted to the side to see the titles better. The further in she crept the dustier the books were, the subject matter going from histories and fictions to whole shelves devoted to magic, cræft, and the fée. The feeling of being pulled towards a specific place did not dissipate.
She had read many books on similar subjects from home already, but among these there were titles she had never seen before, knowledge that was new. It reminded her that she should ask Pierre later on about that tutor in blancræft.
She jumped in her spot at the sound. Turning around she saw a book had fallen from a high shelf. As she was about to go pick it up, another woman stepped from the heavy shadows and reached it first. She wore a mourning dress in deep black with a garland of flowers around her wrist. It was too dark for Lizzy to recognize them.
“Oh, forgive me, I did not mean to intrude,” Lizzy said when the mourner looked up to her. “I thought I was alone.”
“Do not worry yourself, my lady,” the other said. Her eyes were red- the irises themselves, not from weeping. But that was merely a trick of the light, surely, and the dusty lamps whose glow was not as bright as they should be.
“I see you are interest in magic?” the stranger gestured around to the section of the library they were in.
“I have always been.”
The other nodded.
“I am Elizabeth Anne,” she said, hoping to gain a connection to the other. She did not mention her title.
“Greetings, Lady Elizabeth Anne.” The other woman did not offer her name and, given the mourning dress, Elizabeth felt rude prying.
The fires in the lamps flickered. Lizzy found she could not move as the other woman then came over to her. She held out the book that had fallen before, clean of any dust though every other tome in this section had been filthy.
“There are many magics in the world, Elizabeth,” the woman said. “Humans have little of it inherently, but can learn almost any kind with enough practice. It is why they are my favorite. You want to learn to create fire or become a beast, all you need to do is go to the realm where such spirits thrive and gain control over them. Through force, or coaxing, or mutual agreement, it matters not- they will see you are equal measure of all the humors and therefore can inhibit your body and thrive. You are fertile soil for magic.
“And in you there is healing.”
The woman took Elizabeth’s hands, spreading them out, the heavy book open atop them. The woman then placed her finger at the center of the binding. It was bent at an odd angle, healed wrong having been broken at some time in the past. Before Lizzy knew what was happened the tome slammed shut on the finger. She dropped the book with a gasp and grabbed the woman’s hand. It was bloody, her nail almost peeled off, and bent at an even worse angle where a bone had snapped again.
“Forgive me, I do not know why—I—” As she held the other’s hand the finger straightened, the nail reattached, and the blood crept back from the wound before it healed over, now straight and without blemish.
“There will always be pain in the world,” the woman continued. The entire time her face had not changed expression, showing not fear or pain or surprise, only a small sad smile. “Sometimes it is your fault, sometimes an accident, sometimes it is Amôru’s plan. Sometimes it is not His plan, but He makes use of it. Sometimes you need the pain to heal.”
The woman vanished.